AMERICA/CUBA - Some Cubans are rediscovering the meaning of Christmas but many younger ones have never known a traditional Christmas

Wednesday, 22 December 2004

Havana (Fides Service) - Christmas celebrations used to begin on December 8 with the feast of the Immaculate Conception, popularly called “the little Christmas Novena”, the national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Cuba, Father Raul Rodriguez Dago told Fides. People used to put up Christmas trees and Nativity Scenes. Many celebrated “Las Posadas” feast on which whole villages of people dressed as Kings and Shepherds and went into the streets to sing Christmas carols, many brought here from Spain others composed in Cuba..
On Christmas Eve there was a special family meal and then people went to midnight Mass. Christmas day was a time for visiting family and friends. The Epiphany on January 6 marked the close of Christmas festivities. The Three Kings brought presents for the children in answer to letters written the evening before asking for toys and sweets. The morning brought the excitement of opening the parcels left by the Three Kings.
This was the traditional Christmas in Cuba in the past but it all changed under the social government from the 1960s onwards. In 1970 Christmas was declared a working day and it was only in 1997 at the personal request of Pope John Paul II, on the eve of his history-making visit to the Island, that it was restored as a national holiday. There were no Christmas trees or Nativity Scenes, or Christmas Suppers. The holiday became an ordinary working day and people began to forget the meaning of Christmas.
But in recent years we have seen a reawakening of the Christmas spirit: people put up trees and make Nativity Scenes at home. Families and friends are beginning to gather again for the traditional Christmas Supper. But many people, especially the young, have never known a real Christmas. Although, for the joy of the children, January 6 is again the traditional present giving day dedicated to the Three Kings. (R.G.) (Agenzia Fides 22/12/2004; righe 26, parole 383)